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On The Natural Faculties   


But enough about the Asclepiadeans. The Erasistrateans, in attempting to say how the kidneys let the urine through, will do anything or suffer anything or try any shift in order to find some plausible explanation which does not demand the principle of attraction.

Now those near the times of Erasistratus maintain that the parts above the kidneys receive pure blood, whilst the watery residue, being heavy, tends to run downwards; that this, after percolating through the kidneys themselves, is thus rendered serviceable, and is sent, as blood, to all the parts below the kidneys.

For a certain period at least this view also found favour and flourished, and was held to be true; after a time, however, it became suspect to the Erasistrateans themselves, and at last they abandoned it. For apparently the following two points were assumed, neither of which is conceded by anyone, nor is even capable of being proved. The first is the heaviness of the serous fluid, which was said to be produced in the vena cava, and which did not exist, apparently, at the beginning, when this fluid was being carried up from the stomach to the liver. Why, then, did it not at once run downwards when it was in these situations? And if the watery fluid is so heavy, what plausibility can anyone find in the statement that it assists in the process of anadosis?

In the second place there is this absurdity, that even if it be agreed that all the watery fluid does fall downwards, and only when it is in the vena cava, still it is difficult, or, rather, impossible, to say through what means it is going to fall into the kidneys, seeing that these are not situated below, but on either side of the vena cava, and that the vena cava is not inserted into them, but merely sends a branch into each of them, as it also does into all the other parts.

What doctrine, then, took the place of this one when it was condemned? One which to me seems far more foolish than the first, although it also flourished at one time. For they say, that if oil be mixed with water and poured upon the ground, each will take a different route, the one flowing this way and the other that, and that, therefore, it is not surprising that the watery fluid runs into the kidneys, while the blood falls downwards along the vena cava. Now this doctrine also stands already condemned. For why, of the countless veins which spring from the vena cava, should blood flow into all the others, and the serous fluid be diverted to those going to the kidneys? They have not answered the question which was asked; they merely state what happens and imagine they have thereby assigned the reason.

Once again, then (the third cup to the Saviour!),* let us now speak of the worst doctrine of all, lately invented by Lycus of Macedonia, but which is popular owing to its novelty. This Lycus, then, maintains, as though uttering an oracle from the inner sanctuary, that urine is residual matter from the nutrition of the kidneys! Now, the amount of urine passed every day shows clearly that it is the whole of the fluid drunk which becomes urine, except for that which comes away with the dejections or passes off as sweat or insensible perspiration. This is most easily recognized in winter in those who are doing no work but are carousing, especially if the wine be thin and diffusible; these people rapidly pass almost the same quantity as they drink. And that even Erasistratus was aware of this is known to those who have read the first book of his "General Principles." Thus Lycus is speaking neither good Erasistratism, nor good Asclepiadism, far less good Hippocratism. He is, therefore, as the saying is, like a white crow, which cannot mix with the genuine crows owing to its colour, nor with the pigeons owing to its size. For all this, however, he is not to be disregarded; he may, perhaps, be stating some wonderful truth, unknown to any of his predecessors.

*In a toast, the third cup was drunk to Zeus Soter (the Saviour).

Now it is agreed that all parts which are undergoing nutrition produce a certain amount of residue, but it is neither agreed nor is it likely, that the kidneys alone, small bodies as they are, could hold four whole congii,* and sometimes even more, of residual matter. For this surplus must necessarily be greater in quantity in each of the larger viscera; thus, for example, that of the lung, if it corresponds in amount to the size of the viscus, will obviously be many times more than that in the kidneys, and thus the whole of the thorax will become filled, and the animal will be at once suffocated. But if it be said that the residual matter is equal in amount in each of the other parts, where are the bladders, one may ask, through which it is excreted? For, if the kidneys produce in drinkers three and sometimes four congii of superfluous matter, that of each of the other viscera will be much more, and thus an enormous barrel will be needed to contain the waste products of them all. Yet one often urinates practically the same quantity as one has drunk, which would show that the whole of what one drinks goes to the kidneys.

*About twelve quarts.

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